– First of all thanks for answering to our interview. And well, how’s MANILLA ROAD feeling with this new album?
Shark: We are very proud of Playground of the Damned. I think its one of the best albums we have put out.
– I have had the chance of listening to some tracks off this effort and I’ve been surprised by its production; it has a sound at your first era’s style. Was that what you were looking for or did it just end up like this?
Shark: Our production style has always been a different one. What I was really after on Playground was a sound that was close to what the band sounds like live when we are playing on all our own equipment. When we tour in Europe we don’t always end up with the type of gear we play on in the states. Cory likes his drum sound a little dryer than I like but he wants to make sure that all of his intricate parts are audible. I wanted a good mix
where every instruments parts could be distinguished well but at the same time have it sound heavier than hell and still hold true to the style of Manilla Road. Our mixes will always sound different than most bands nowadays because we don’t use triggered or sampled drums and we mic the amps up and turn the shit up as loud hell because that is what we do live. I like to stay true to the genre of music that we are playing in and some of the old school production ideas and techniques are the best way to achieve that. It may not sound as polished and perfect as some other recordings but I can stand behind it all 100 percent because it’s us playing our instruments with no cheating. No cut and pasting vocal parts so that they all sound the same and real drums with the drummer playing all the parts and not quantizing the stuff so it is tempo perfect. We do use a click track to keep our meter straight but what you hear is what we played and not what a machine made better.
– After your two latest albums, «Gates of Fire» and «Voyager», which were conceptual and epic (over an hour long) albums; was «Playground of the Damned» the idea you had in mind? I mean, did you have the idea of doing again a more straight-forward and less lengthy album?
Shark: Yep. That was the intention this time. We love to do concept albums but I don’t want to limit the band to just that. MR has always been a very experimental band I want to keep it that way. I am sure that the next album may be more of a concept but for this one we wanted to have a little more freedom with the content and remind everyone that we can do just about anything and are not stuck in any sort of conceptual rut.
– Each MANILLA ROAD’s album tends to have a story complemented with cover artworks sometimes quite surrealistic. Tell us a bit the story of this new CD and what you wanted to express with its cover.
Shark: Well this album is a pretty dark album when it comes to the topics we covered in the songs. I wanted the cover art to depict that as well and at the same time I wanted to also show within the art that the band has not forgotten it’s roots. So we have some of the old emblems and imagery of the Road showing up in different places on the cover. I think Marcus Vespur did a great job of having the old Larnoy (RIP) relics retain the Larnoy look. What a
great loss to the art world it was when he died. I’m still in mourning.
– Talking about MANILLA ROAD means talking about the so called 80’s US Epic Metal. Today I don’t want to waste the opportunity of talking a bit about your history. How was MANILLA ROAD born? Since the very first moment was obvious you are a special band. I have always described your style as something «mystic/cosmic»; I think you are a band able to be as primitive as ahead of your time. How was the MANILLA ROAD’s sound born?
Shark: It was born out of a love for all styles of music. I was into everything that was strange melodic metal or even just rock n roll. I listened to everything and everything that I listened too had a influence on me. The band started off not wanting to be a typical band. I was out to change the world of metal music and I still am. I’m in search of the lost chord and by the gods I am going to find it or die trying. I love mystical things and I love good reading material that gives birth to ideas of music and poetry. I love putting together musical or what I call sonic landscapes that evoke the visions of the music into your head. Not just hearing the words say things about the theme of the song but the music itself bringing forth the proper visions of the songs content. By Crom I just totally love the process of making music and cool story lines. I’m addicted to it and can’t stop. It’s like I’m possessed. Hey maybe I am.
– In 1980 and 1982 you released your first albums, «Invasion» and
«Metal»; you there sounded pretty rocky though in some tunes as «The Empire» or «Cage of Mirrors» we could be already noticed certain evolution without having a different essence from your first albums. How were like those albums and those first steps?
Shark: Those first projects were like trying to learn how to run before we learned how to walk. In the middle of the U.S. Where there was nothing modern as far as music industry stuff. It was a hard road to grow a band up on. But we were bound and determined to make it happen so we formed our own record label and just went at it headlong a full boar. We were either going to be a bright light or we were going down in flames. Luckily it looks like we have not gone down in flames yet. Looking to push it to 4 decades of Manilla Metal.
– Between 1983 and 1986 «Crystal Logic», «Open the Gates» and «The Deluge» came out. For many people this was your best era and those were your best albums. How eres those recordings? And do
you also think this was your best period?
Shark: It’s sort of weird that people think of it as our best era because those albums did not have all the same members on them and the approach was a bit different from album to album as all of our project have been. What I’m trying to say is Rick Fisher was a lot different drummer than Randy Foxe and Crystal Logic is nowhere near the same type of album as the other two you mentioned. They are different style wise and performance as well. I understand a lot of fans that new us back then think that was our best time but our newer fans will argue that the music we have done since 2000 is the best of our efforts. I myself just always think that what I am working on now is the best thing I have ever done. But if I had to choose my favorites from over the years this would be the list: The Deluge (first album I ever did that I love every single song on it), Mystification, Atlantis Rising, Gates of Fire, Voyager and Playground of the Damned. Of course there are songs and moments from all the other albums that I love but I think the concepts on these albums are my favorites and I was really pleased with the total outcome of these works.
– Already in 1987 and 1988 you released two albums more Thrash oriented yet without loosing the band’s personality. Those were «Mystification» and «Out in the Abyss», two great albums back in
Shark: Yea I love both of them also. Mystification maybe a little more because of the Poe stuff. We were just still following the path of heavier and faster at that time. But always there will be the Manilla sound as long as I am involved in the production of the albums. I always put my own stamp on the music and the recording and mixing style. It may not be to everyones taste all the time but it is what I have heard in my head for the most part and I’m just trying to play it for everyone the way I think it should be heard. If people don’t like it then that is cool with me you are not being forced to listen to Manilla Road. It is a choice and I am just glad that a lot of people out there think that Manilla Road is a good choice to make.
– In 1988 «Live Road Kill» was released. How where the MANILLA ROAD shows in thr 80’s? Did you play in an underground way or did you get to be the support in any important tour?
Shark: We did both. We did a lot of our own shows and those were the ones that were recorded for the live Roadkill album. But we also played support
for other bands like Krokus and Ted Nugent back in that day. The shows we did on our own were sort of like Manilla Road meets Kiss. We loved to blow up everything on stage and did so for a long time. Fog, flames, smoke and lights and chains on boots with leather on all of us except for Randy Foxe. Could never get him into any leather. He really was not a metal head he just liked to bash on drums really hard so metal music was the only place he could do that. We ran around like crazy guys and chopped up manequines and did bloody stuff on stage. It was a lot of fun but as the times went on we decided that the music should be the most important part of the show and not the display.
– Already in the 90’s came out what for me was the best band’s album. «The Courts of Chaos» brought os back an epic band but also really symphonic; did you have clear after these two strong albums you wanted to bring back what you knew to do the best?
Shark: Courts of Chaos was the hardest time that I ever went through with MR. Randy and Scott hated each other by this time and it was almost impossible to get that album done. We knew at the time we were recording it that the band was not going to survive any longer with that lineup. It was a
step back into the epic nature of the band but at the same time I hated the sound of the drums on it. We (the only time) used triggered drums and samples on that album and I hated it when it was all finished because it sounded nothing like us live. And I still to this day believe that triggered and sampled drums are cheating. I want to hear what the drummer and his drum set sound like. Not what the newest drum samples sound like. That is like rap technology infecting metal music if you ask me. Call me old school if you want…I’m proud of it. I play music with the help of machines. I don’t play machines that make the music for me.
– Later, in 1992, appeared another excelent album (in my opinion), which it wasn’t supposed to be released with the band’s name but finally it came out like this. «The Circus Maximus» shows different styles in just one overwhelming work. Tell us a bit about how did this record come up and how did the ideas for it arise?
Shark: I started that project with the idea of it being a solo album with hired guns for musicians but the guys I started playing with were so good at writing as well that it became a band very fast. It was 3 totally different musicians
with 3 different approaches to writing and playing. We combined all of that into one band and we all contributed to the music and lyrics and vocals. It was a great time. We intended on it just being a recording project at first but then decided to do a few live shows locally in Wichita. It went over so well live (as Circus Maximus) that we kept playing live shows for about 2 years or so. We never did play live under the Manilla Road name though. We did do some MR songs in the band but we were always Circus Maximus.
– What happened between 1992 and 2000? There was a long hiatus; did you split-up or was just a long rest? What were you up to during that time?
Shark: After Circus Maximus I put the Road back together for awhile with Randy Foxe and Harvey Patrick (bass). We wrote some stuff and did a few live shows and got back into the swing of it locally but we did not have much going on for us in the label area. And then after a bit of time we split up again because Randy and Harvey could not get along with each other. I still planned to record another MR album with Randy and was waiting for him to do his drum tracks but that turned into waiting forever and eventually it just never happened. So during that time I finished my MBA degree in college and got a good job and got married and started having kids. Took up the game of golf and started winning amatuer tournaments. Had a blast doing that for several years. Pretty much put the music down for awhile and just lived life like a normal person. And I hated it because I can’t live without playing
– In 2000 you were once more releasing new stuff, albums as «Atlantis Rising» and «Spiral Castle» showed us the more Epic Doom MANILLA ROAD’s style. How was like this new era?
Shark: Well I was shocked to find out that we were still in demand in Europe. We were approached by a record label (Iron Glory) that wanted to re-issue Crystal Logic and we did that with them and it was selling so well that we were invited to play the Bang Your Head Festival in Germany in 2000. We Bryan Patrick and Mark Anderson and I had been working on a new project anyway that was going to be another attempt at a Shark solo album. Well I had Mark Anderson on board for doing the show in Germany with me and I asked Randy if he would go. He said yes at first and so I agreed to do the festival and then a few days later Randy decided he did not want to go and told me I should not go either because there could be no Manilla Road without him. Well we both yelled at each other for a few days and then it was finally over and we have never spoke to each other since. But I still grabbed up another drummer for the fest. Troy Olson and we went and did the show and then as soon as we got back from Gemany I found a permanent drummer for awhile in Scott Peters and we were up and running again with Manilla Road. Yes the label did not want Shark Project they wanted MR and the project we were working on was based off of a MR project anyway. So we recorded and released The Deluge part II with Atlantis Rising. And the we followed it up with Spiral Castle and in the middle of all that we started touring regularly in Europe and the states.
– Curiously, «Mark of the Beast» was released in 2002, an album made back in 1981, which it was supposed to be your second album. What happened and why was released that later? It was maybe an album ahead of its time or did you have any other trouble?
Shark: We just did not like the outcome of the project when we recorded it and put it on the shelf untill years later when I was finally talked into releasing it.
– And entering into your latest period, with concept albums as «Gates of Fire» or «Voyager», I think MANILLA ROAD set up and reached many more people. How do you see this latest period for the band in comparison with all that’s laying behind it?
Shark: I love both of those albums. I think the production was a bit thin on Gates and the mastering at the pressing plant on Voyager turned out too dark but I still love the albums and especially the story lines on both. I think MR has grown into a great epic concept band and that the sound is totally unique and both of these albums show that we still have a lot of new ideas but are still living within the roots of the band as well. I am loving this time for Manillla Road.
– Another thing I’m curious about is the «After Midnight Live» release; a curious recording off the first steps of the band recorded at a local radio station. Tell us how did you come up with this idea and how was that moment like back in the day.
Shark: It was a magik moment back in the day because we were the first metal
band to do anything like that in our state. It was really cool playing live on the radio. The tapes that we recorded the show on were cassettes and there were two of them. They both ended up lost for years and then Rick Fisher found the second half of the show in some of his old stuff one day and gave it to me to see if I could save and restore it. I did and it came out good enough that I decided to release it. It was not a make a fast dollar thing though. I only put it out because all the music on it had never been released before and not heard by most of our fans.
– You are a band that uses to play undergrounf destivals. I had the luck of seeing you guys at Keep it True and fulfill one of my dreams. Do you have in mind doing a «festivals tour» for this new release or, otherwise, there can be a tour to support it?
Shark: We are only doing one show this year. We think we are Pink Floyd now…hehe. We are headlining the Epic night at the Hammer Of Doom festival in Germany on October 27, 2011. So if you want to see us this year you will have to catch that show. Andreas Neurdith is to be our drummer for this show because our drummer (Cory) is having some problems that are keeping him from traveling right now. It should be glorious though. Neudi is a good friend and he knows the music very well and is a great drummer so I think this will be a show to remember. We are mainly doing songs from Metal, Crystal Logic, Open The Gates, The Deluge, Mystification, Courts of Chaos and a couple of songs from Playground of the Damned. The show will be at least 2.5 hours long and we are doing mostly songs that Rick or Randy played on because that is the stuff that Neudi knows the best.
– What’s the future for MANILLA ROAD? Do you have plans for the upcoming years? What would you like to do you haven’t done yet?
Shark: The plan for the future is to keep going and going. No matter what it takes there will always be Manilla Road as long as someone wants us to play or record. I will not stop until I can’t physically do it anymore. So expect to see the Road on the road and releasing more albums in the future.
– So that’s all from my side, Mark. It has been for me a real honour having the shot of interviewing one of the bands I admire and respect the most, and there’s only left for me to say something I do always say when it comes to MANILLA ROAD: «I’m mystified, I believe in MANILLA ROAD!!».
Thank you so much Mark, hope to see you guys soon.
Shark: Thanks so much for doing the interview and support the band. It is really my honor man because we know that without the support of our friends like you that we are nothing. I would like to say in closing to all our fans and you that it has been my lifes honor creating and performing music for all of you and I hope that Manilla Road never lets any of you down. I am sworn to the gods and the muse to continue this quest for the lost chord as long as I live and with your help I may even some day achieve just that. Up The Hammers & Down The Nails.